“The Hand of Jehovah” in My Life
AS TOLD BY LAWRENCE THOMPSON
ONE night in 1946, my dad and I sat in the car watching the northern lights dancing across the heavens. We talked about Jehovah’s grandeur and our smallness. We relived episodes from the years when the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses was banned in Canada. Dad impressed on me how Jehovah had sustained and guided His people through those years.
EVEN though I was only 13, I could appreciate the truth of what Dad was saying. He also impressed on me a sense of the urgency and vastness of the preaching work that was yet to be done. Dad quoted Numbers 11:23 and stressed to me that, really, the hand of Jehovah is never cut short. Only our lack of faith and trust in him limits what he will do for us. It was a precious father-and-son exchange, one that I will never forget.
Studying the Watch Tower publications, especially the book Salvation, published in 1939, also greatly influenced my early life. I’ll never forget the book’s dramatic opening illustration: “The streamline express, crowded with passengers, was speeding at one hundred miles [160 km] per hour. It must cross the river on a bridge which made an almost fifty-percent curve, so that persons on the rear platform of the train could see the engine . . . Two men riding on the rear platform . . . beheld that a span of the bridge at the far end was on fire and falling into the river. They realized that they were facing great danger. That was a real emergency. Could the train be stopped in time to save the lives of the many passengers aboard?”
Applying the illustration, the book concluded: “Likewise today, all the nations and peoples of earth are face to face with the greatest emergency. They are being warned as God commands, that the disaster of Armageddon is just ahead. . . . Having been warned, each one thus warned must now choose the course he will take.”
The speeding train, the burning bridge, and the urgency of the preaching work were indelibly etched in my mind.
Early Preaching Activity
I began sharing in the preaching work in 1938, when I was five. Henry and Alice Tweed, two pioneers (full-time ministers), would take me along with them, and we would spend from 10 to 12 hours a day talking to people. I thoroughly enjoyed those full days in Jehovah’s service. So I was thrilled the following year when Dad and Mom allowed me to become a publisher and actually report my activity.
In those early days, we engaged in information marches, walking down the main street of towns wearing placards bearing slogans that exposed false religion and advertised God’s Kingdom. We also used portable phonographs and played Bible-based messages right at the doorstep of householders. We would play speeches of J. F. Rutherford, the Watch Tower Society’s president, some of which I knew by heart. I can still hear him say: “It has been often said, Religion is a snare and a racket!”
Our Work Banned in Canada
During the second world war, the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses was banned in Canada, as it had been in Nazi Germany and other lands. So we used only the Bible but continued our God-authorized work in obedience to Bible instructions. (Matthew 28:19, 20; Acts 5:29) We learned to cope with police raids on our meetings and our homes. We also became experienced at testifying before judges and answering cross-examiners.
My brother Jim and I became experts at throwing booklets from moving vehicles onto doorsteps and verandas. In addition we acted as couriers and, at times, as sentinels for those crossing the border to attend conventions in the United States.
Our house was on the outskirts of Port Arthur (now Thunder Bay), Ontario, on a couple of acres [a hectare or so] surrounded by trees and bushes. We had a cow, a calf, pigs, and chickens—all of which served as fine camouflage for our work of assisting young fellow Christians who were being hunted down to be imprisoned for preaching God’s Kingdom.
By night, cars, trucks, and trailers carrying young Christians would pull in and out of our secluded yard. We would house, hide, disguise, and feed these youths and then send them on their way. My father and mother, along with those other early workers, were whole-souled servants who shaped my young heart to serve and love Jehovah God.
In August 1941, I dedicated my life to Jehovah and was baptized in a small lake deep in the woods. A number of us had assembled for this event late at night in a lamplit cabin. Apparently suspicious, the police patrolled, all the while scanning the lake with searchlights, but did not locate us.
Many Facets of Full-Time Service
In 1951, I graduated from high school and traveled almost a thousand miles [1,600 km] to take up a pioneer assignment in Cobourg, Ontario. The congregation was small, and I had no pioneer partner. But remembering that the hand of Jehovah is not cut short, I rented a room, did my own cooking, and was happy to be serving Jehovah. The following year I was invited to serve at the branch office of the Watch Tower Society in Toronto. There I learned many valuable lessons that refined me for future Kingdom service.
After I served as a pioneer in Toronto for over a year, Lucy Trudeau and I were married, and in the winter of 1954, we received a pioneer assignment in Levis, Quebec. The weather was bitterly cold, the mobs and police harassment were intimidating, and it was a challenge to learn French. Through it all the hand of Jehovah was never cut short, so while there were tough times, we had many blessings as well.
For example, we were asked to inspect two ships (the Arosa Star and the Arosa Kulm) that the Society planned to use to carry delegates to the large international European conventions in 1955. Anxious to have the Society’s business, shipping company executives occasionally showed us hospitality, which was a pleasant respite from the stressful ministry in Quebec at that time.
In the fall of 1955, I was invited to serve as a traveling overseer, and we spent that winter visiting remote congregations in frigid northern Ontario. The following year we attended the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead in the United States, and afterward we were assigned as missionaries to Brazil, South America.
We threw our heart and soul into our new assignment and soon were able to preach and teach in the Portuguese language. Early in 1957, I was again assigned to work as a traveling overseer. Now, instead of the frigid cold of the North, we had to contend with blistering heat. Many times we had to stop and remove burning sand from our shoes or cut sugarcane to chew on to renew our strength. But there were blessings.
In the town of Regente Feijo, I spoke to the chief of police, and he ordered all stores closed and told everyone to go to the town square. Under the shade of a broad-leafed flowering tree, I gave a Bible lecture to all the townspeople. Today there is a congregation of Witnesses there.
Rearing Our Children in Brazil
When Lucy became pregnant in 1958, we settled in Juiz de Fora and served as special pioneers. During the next two years, our daughters, Susan and Kim, were born. They proved to be a real blessing in the ministry, becoming a novelty in town. As we pushed their strollers over the cobblestone streets, people would come out to see them. Since the need was great for Kingdom publishers in Recife, just south of the equator, we moved to that extremely hot place.
In 1961, not only was I able to help arrange air transportation for Witnesses going to the convention in São Paulo but I also got to attend that memorable convention myself. About 20 minutes into the flight, though, the plane abruptly plummeted earthward, throwing passengers around the cabin. The inside of the plane was a wreck; seats were wrenched from their moorings, and passengers were bruised and bleeding. Happily, the pilot was able to pull the plane out of its fall, and we landed safely. None of us were so badly hurt that we could not proceed to São Paulo on another plane. We enjoyed a wonderful convention, but I said that I would never fly again!
However, when I arrived home from the convention, another assignment awaited me. I was to care for a convention deep in the jungle at Teresina, Piauí State. I would have to fly there. Scared as I was, I took the assignment, relying on the hand of Jehovah.
In 1962 our son, Greg, was born in Recife. Although I was no longer able to pioneer because I now had a growing family, I was able to exert a positive influence on the small congregation. The children were always eager to join us in the ministry, since we made it interesting to them. Each of them, from the age of three, was able to make a presentation at the doors. We made it a habit never to miss attending meetings or sharing in field service. Even when one in the family was sick and another might stay home with that one, the rest would attend the meeting or share in the field ministry.
Over the years, we regularly discussed as a family the children’s school courses and their goals in life, preparing them for a career with Jehovah’s organization. We were careful not to expose them to weakening influences, such as television. We did not have a TV in our home until the children were in their teens. And although we had the means, we did not spoil them with material things. For example, we bought only one bicycle, to be shared by the three of them.
We did things together as much as possible, playing basketball, swimming, and taking family trips. Our trips were in connection with attending Christian conventions or visiting Bethel homes in various countries. These trips gave us the time to talk freely together so that Lucy and I could learn what was in our children’s hearts. We are so grateful to Jehovah for those enjoyable years!
Eventually, our ten years in the Tropics near the equator took its toll on Lucy’s health. So we welcomed a change of assignment to the more moderate climate of the south, at Curitiba, Paraná State.
Return to Canada
In 1977, after about 20 years in Brazil, Lucy and I returned to Canada with our children to help care for my ailing father. What culture shock that was for our family! But it was no shock spiritually, since we maintained our same routine with our loving Christian brotherhood.
In Canada the full-time ministry became a family affair as our daughters each in turn entered the full-time pioneer ministry. All of us contributed to our family enterprise. Any income from part-time employment was put into the expense fund to maintain our home and the three automobiles needed to cover our scattered territory. Every week, after our family Bible study, we discussed our family plans. These discussions helped define for everybody where we were going and what we were doing with our lives.
Our son, Greg, like his older sisters, also had the full-time ministry as his goal. Ever since he was five, he expressed the desire to work at a branch office of the Society, called Bethel. He never lost sight of that goal, and after graduating from high school, he asked his mother and me: “Do you think I should apply for Bethel?”
While it tugged at our hearts to let our son leave, we replied without hesitation: “You will never feel the hand of Jehovah as much as you will at Bethel—the very heart of Jehovah’s organization.” Within two months he was off to the Canada Bethel. That was in 1980, and he has served there ever since.
The 1980’s brought new challenges for Lucy and me. We were back where we started—just the two of us. By then Susan was married and was pioneering with her husband, and Kim and Greg were both serving at Bethel. What would we do? That question was quickly answered in 1981 when we were invited to serve a Portuguese circuit, which sprawled across some 1,200 miles [2,000 km] of Canada. We are still enjoying the traveling work.
Kim has since married and attended Gilead, and she now serves with her husband in the circuit work in Brazil. Susan and her husband are still in Canada, rearing their two children, and Susan’s husband is pioneering. Even though our family in recent years has been separated physically because of our various assignments in the full-time service, we remain close spiritually and emotionally.
Lucy and I look forward to a bright future with our family in the cleansed earth. (2 Peter 3:13) Like Moses of old, we have experienced firsthand the truthfulness of the answer to the rhetorical question at Numbers 11:23: “The hand of Jehovah is cut short, is it? Now you will see whether what I say befalls you or not.” Indeed, nothing can prevent Jehovah from blessing his servants for their wholehearted service.
[Picture on page 25]
With my wife, Lucy